For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." - Romans 10: 11-13 (ESV)
The "Blasphemy Challenge" has been around for awhile now but is rearing its ridiculous head again on social media. What this is, is a challenge to unbelievers to create a YouTube video damning themselves to hell. Displaying that they clearly do not understand Scripture, the people issuing the challenge provide the following instructions:
"You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like, but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase: "I deny the Holy Spirit." Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible, "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Jesus will forgive you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is a one-way road you're taking here."
The result are videos all over the Internet of people who are already going to hell, consigning themselves to hell. They do it joyfully. They do it mockingly. While many Christians appear repulsed by it, we ought to feel nothing but abject sadness. The Bible says that the things of God are foolishness to those who are perishing and fools of themselves they do make. The notion however that creating a two minute video is going to permanently ban them from ever coming to Christ is simply as idiotic as the videos themselves. The key verses today spell that out very clearly for us. Everyone who believes in Christ will not be put to shame. There is no distinction between those who have made videos and those who have not. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Everyone. Not just everyone who has never participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. But preacher, they denied the Holy Spirit! Beloved our entire lives deny the Holy Spirit until we come to penitent faith in Christ. This is like a "Word-Un-Faith" gospel and it is just as heretical as the Word-Faith heresy. Our words do not have the power of creation or damnation. The God we serve is not going to turn His back on a 60 year old man because of a video he made when he was 18 and simply did not know any better. That would deny the entire canon of Scripture that presents a just God. Realize that if someone was to die before coming to faith in Christ, their eternal punishment is based upon not believing on Christ - not because of a video they made.
What then are we to make of the Scriptures regarding the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? This exchange between Jesus and the religious teachers of law appears in all three synoptic Gospels and cannot be ignored. I was astounded to discover when researching it that the disagreement across Christendom is quite stark regarding this matter. Let us turn to the actual passages to see if we can exposit what was trying to be conveyed by Jesus Christ. We will start with the Gospel of Matthew:
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. - Matthew 12: 22-32 (ESV)
What can we be sure of from these verses? A man who was tormented by a demon which caused blindness and muteness was brought to Jesus and He healed him. He cast out the demon, as He was known to do. To the witnesses, amazement followed. That would stand to reason. The people were so amazed they started to wonder if He was the Messiah. The Pharisees heard this. They heard the people who followed them and their teachings start to wonder aloud if this Jesus was indeed the Messiah they all were waiting for. These verses clearly connect their hearing the people wonder if He was the Messiah to their accusation against Him that He was casting out demons by the power of Satan. They accused Him of performing His miracles through the power of Satan solely because they heard that the people were starting to believe He was the Messiah. Do we get that? They knew better. They knew full well He was not performing these works through the power of the devil. They actually did not care about that. They only cared about their own power structure and Jesus was an imminent threat to it. Consider these similar verses immediately after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead:
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." - John 11: 45-48 (ESV)
If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him. They knew He performed many signs. They knew full well it was not from the devil yet they leveled this accusation at Him. As we know from the arrest and trial of Jesus that the leaders had no qualms about bearing false witness to achieve their ends. Next in the Matthew account we see that He knew their thoughts. Why would Matthew make this clear when it is obvious that He heard their words already? I believe that their words were only confirming for Him that they were making the charge up - because He knew their thoughts! So they level this accusation against Him but He knows full well that they do not believe it. That they are trying to lure people away from Him not based upon belief but upon self preservation. Not based upon anything holy or righteous but only because of pure selfishness and carnality. So He highlights the absurdity of their accusation. How can Satan cast out Satan? He can't and he wouldn't! But if it is not Satan then it is by the Spirit of God and that would mean the Kingdom of God had now come upon them. Not only that but Jesus teaches them that He cannot plunder the domain of the devil unless He first binds him. So not only are these works not of Satan but Jesus binds Satan in order to perform the miracles and then they have the temerity to claim His source of power is Satan? Jesus then draws a clear line in the sand. There are no gray areas with God. Those who are not with Him are by definition against Him. Those that are not trying to gather with Him are scattering. He cuts them to the heart of their wicked accusation. In their desire for personal power they were indeed scattering the people away from Jesus by making this false accusation. Jesus was trying to gather people to Him and they were trying to scatter them away from Him.
What has driven this entire exchange? The false accusation they made that He was driving out demons by the power of Satan for the express purpose of protecting their own power at the expense of the unsaved masses. As we continue in the verses, Jesus says "therefore" and goes into the portion dealing with the unpardonable sin. The "therefore" connects the unpardonable sin directly to the accusation. As such the term "blasphemy against the Spirit" refers specifically to what had just occurred. Thus the following conditions must be met:
* The blasphemy must originate from believers.
* The blasphemy must be attributing the miracles of God to Satan.
* The purpose of this attribution must be selfish in design, knowing full well it is false.
I have seen believers insist that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can only be done by unbelievers. Even Billy Graham held this position. I just do not see that from Scripture. The Pharisees and Scribes were certainly believers in God! They were the religious leaders of the day! Yet despite all of their knowledge, they still would deny the Messiah in front of them. Not because of ignorance or poor hermeneutics. Not because they misunderstood or misinterpreted the Scriptures. Their motivation was pure selfishness and carnality despite knowing the truth. Let us turn now to Mark's Gospel and see if there is anything further to add to this:
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house."Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- for they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit." - Mark 3: 22-30 (ESV)